Providence Journal [Providence RI]
June 30, 2023
By Paul Edward Parker
The Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled Friday that a state law that extended time limits for filing suit against priests who molested children does not also change the time limits for filing suit against church higher-ups who supervised the offending priests.
The high court upheld a ruling by a Superior Court judge who had dismissed three lawsuits against officials of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence brought by people who said they were abused by priests when they were children.
Ruling draws the line of who is a perpetrator
The Supreme Court ruled that the General Assembly, when it changed state law to extend the time limits, clearly drew a distinction between those who perpetrated sexual abuse against children and those who were not actual perpetrators.
“The alleged conduct of the hierarchal defendants did not classify them as perpetrator defendants,” the court ruled. “It would be most inappropriate for this Court to accomplish by judicial decree that which the General Assembly refused to enact by statute.”
The change in the law, which took effect in 2019, requires lawsuits to be brought within 35 years after a victim turns 18. The old law required suits to be brought within seven years of victims turning 18. The extension only applies to suits brought against a “perpetrator defendant.”